Independent pharmacists worry about their ability to survive
Many local pharmacists in Mississippi are concerned about their ability to survive and serve their communities as large pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies increase the cost of filling prescriptions. This conclusion is based on a survey of independent pharmacists conducted by State Auditor Shad White’s office.
“Last year, the state obtained a $55.5 million settlement resulting from our investigation into PBM practices,” said White. “It was the largest civil settlement resulting from a Mississippi State Auditor’s investigation ever. This report continues our look at the problems caused for Mississippians by these out-of-state corporate middlemen.”
In June 2021, Auditor White announced the conclusion of an investigation of Centene—one of the largest companies in the United States—and the PBM it operates as part of Mississippi’s Medicaid program. That investigation concluded with a $55.5 million civil settlement—one of the first of its kind in the country. The State Auditor’s office will continue to investigate whether PBMs have overcharged taxpayers or hurt government employees who are part of the state’s health insurance plan.
Survey results show local pharmacists are concerned about PBMs, which are corporations hired by health plans to help manage a health plan’s prescription drug costs. These companies are meant to negotiate price reductions with pharmaceutical companies and reimburse pharmacies after prescription medication has been provided to patients. But PBMs now claw back some of the money they pay to pharmacies with increasing regularity. Survey respondents overwhelmingly identified this PBM practice as one of the biggest reasons drug prices are skyrocketing.
The report shows over 90% of pharmacists described PBMs as “an obstacle between the patient and healthcare provider, largely responsible for increasing drug prices.” Survey results also indicated increased fees and costs imposed by doing business with PBMs will cause many pharmacists to scale back their support of community organizations and some to consider closing altogether.
The full report can be found online at the Auditor’s website.